The Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua is the most important Catholic church in Padua and one of the largest in the world. The church, dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua, is visited every year by over 6.5 million pilgrims, making it one of the most revered shrines in the Christian world.
Saint Anthony of Padua was a Portuguese Catholic priest and friar of the Franciscan Order. He was born and raised in Lisbon, and died in Padua on June 13, 1231. He was one of the most quickly canonized saints in church history.
In the Middle Ages, this place was located in a peripheral area of the city of Padua. Here, there was the small Church of Santa Maria Mater Domini, where Saint Anthony stayed for over a year between 1229 and 1231. When Saint Anthony died on June 13, 1231, his body was transfered to this small church and buried there, following his desire.
Soon, many miraculous phenomena were recorded around his grave and pilgrims began to arrive first from the nearby districts and then from beyond the Alps. The canonical process took place in the Cathedral of Spoleto on May 30, 1232, where Pope Gregory IX named him a saint.
A year after the saint’s death, it was decided to erect a new church, proportionate to the need to receive and host large groups of pilgrims. The ancient church formed the nucleus from which the construction of the basilica started, and is still incorporated as the Chapel of the Dark Madonna (Cappella della Madonna Mora).
The construction of the basilica continued until 1310, but changes and additions to the structure were made until the 15th century. The works of the 15th century included the raising of the ambulatory and the rearrangement of the choir.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The Basilica of Sant’Antonio di Padova is characterized by different styles – the gabled facade was built in Romanesque style, the buttresses develop to become rampant arches in Gothic style, the domes were erected in Byzantine style and the structure of the apse with radial chapels is also in Gothic style.
The facade is approximately 28 meters high and about 37 meters wide. On the facade, there are five recessed arches, from which the central one is surmounted by a niche containing the statue of the saint. The three bronze doors on the facade were built after a design by the architect Camillo Boito.
In the lunette of the main portal, there is a copy by Nicola Lochoff of the fresco by Andrea Mantegna depicting Saint Anthony and Saint Bernardine who adore the monogram of Christ. The original fresco, detached, is preserved in the nearby convent.
In the niche above, we can see the stone statue of Sant’Antonio, a copy made in 1940 by Napoleone Martinuzzi to replace the original 14th century by Rinaldino di Francia, now preserved in the Anthonian Museum.
On the roof of the basilica, there are eight domes and two slender bell towers which reach 68 meters in height.
The interior of the basilica has a Latin cross plan, divided into three naves by pillars.
The body of Saint Anthony is kept in the Chapel of Saint Anthony, located in the transept. Among other relics, the chin and tongue of the saint are displayed in a gold reliquary in the Chapel of the Relics, known also as the Treasury.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Basilica of Saint Anthony is located about 300 meters from the square of Prato della Valle and about 2 kilometers from the Padua railway station. The closest bus stop is Businello Santo, located about 200 meters away on the Riviera Businello, on the bus Lines U03, U05, U11, U12, U13, U14, U16, U22 and U88. The closest tram stop is Santo, about 280 meters away, also on the Riviera Businello, on the tram Line SIR1.